PITTSBURGH— Following a successful sophomore season and a Hungarian National Team function, Duquesne women’s basketball redshirt junior forward Eniko Kuttor was feeling very confident about what was to come on the court, but a trip to a Pittsburgh emergency room has delayed that vision.
Initially, Kuttor believed her pain was a muscle pull or a rib-related injury but upon going to the hospital, doctors diagnosed her as having blood clots in her lungs.
Kuttor was first informed that she had one blood clot in her lung and had trouble immediately processing what she was told and after further tests were conducted, it was determined that she actually had three blood clots. She’s determined to overcome the setback and return to the court for the Dukes.
“I never considered myself the toughest person, but I am pretty sure that after this, I’m going to be up there,” she said. “I want to do everything in my power to get back into it, to prove that I still have it and that I can do it. People who get injured or have something like this happen can take it is a sign to finish things up, but not me.”
A SPORTING LIFE
Basketball came into Kuttor’s life in an unconventional way. It is no surprise that she ended up a high-level athlete, after all, her family is filled with them, including both of her parents.
But for most of her youth in Hungary, Kuttor was a swimmer, and a successful one. Her swimming coach thought she should stick with it, even going as far as promising to place an emphasis on her in practice.
Ultimately, it was the practice itself that caused her to move on from the sport. Swimming practice started at 6 a.m. and her mother, Edit objected to an eight-year-old having to practice at such an early hour.
Edit had given up her own basketball career to take care of Eniko, because her husband Atila, had a successful soccer career that had him frequently on the road while he became the most-capped player in the history of the Hungarian league and made 19 appearances with the Hungarian National Team over his 22-year career.
Perhaps Edit saw promise in her daughter in the sport that she had specialized in, and soon after she gave up swimming, basketball became the younger Kuttor’s passion.
When Eniko Kuttor was 12, she was given an opportunity in Sopron a town about three hours from her hometown of Székesfehérvár. The family had to get their bearings in a new city and Kuttor attended a new school, but it furthered her basketball career, which clearly was becoming a passion.
With Uniqa Euroleasing Sopron in 2015-16, Kuttor led her team to a 17-1 record and from there, she made her first national team. Her successful career in Hungary led to options both in Europe and America for college, forcing Kuttor to have to make a decision.
One thing that allowed Kuttor to choose Duquesne over Fordham and the other American collegiate offers she received was the persistence of Dukes head coach Dan Burt.
Kuttor appreciated the diverse culture that Duquesne’s team had and that Burt’s wife Kata also was Hungarian. With no official visits made, Kuttor felt right at home and made the decision to play for Duquesne.
“He wanted me to come here so bad,” she said. “He gave both my parents and myself the confidence that he could take me to the next level. My family believed he could take care of our little girl.”
Coming into Duquesne, Kuttor had to adjust to the more physical and mental nature of the American game, which was something that provided challenges.
“Freshman year was literally a punch in the face,” she said. “I played a lot back home and was successful. Switching that to a different structure and method everything was so new, so I had to accept that and wait for my time.”
Kuttor redshirted, the next year which also was hard since she was used to playing but it allowed her to focus in on what her role would be on the team: rebounding.
Kuttor has become a big Dennis Rodman fan and has embraced his style of rebounding. Burt himself consistently refers to Kuttor as “Rodman,” a sign of respect for what he wants her to be and also what she has embraced.
A quicker, faster, stronger and more confident Kuttor saw a good amount of playing time in 2017-18, and was often the first post player to come off the bench. She led the team with 6.6 rebounds per game. Her rebounding extended possessions and also added to her confidence.
When Kuttor was diagnosed with blood clots, one of her first calls was to assistant coach Rachel Wojdowski, who rushed down to the hospital. Though Kuttor did not want to inconvenience her team, given the later hour of the diagnosis, some of her teammates and coaches rushed over as quickly as they could. Duquesne director of athletics David Harper also expressed interest in visiting as well.
“The support means everything,” Kuttor said. “I was in the hospital and the love I felt from so many people that care about me was amazing. I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, people actually do love me.’ People tell me they love me, but when things come down and you are in a really bad situation, that’s when it turns out who you can rely on and I have a lot of people to rely on.”
Though Kuttor lives in a dormitory on campus, she was unable to live by herself and stayed with Burt and his family for a couple of weeks before moving back on campus, where she is surrounded by teammates who frequently check on her.
“Just after receiving the diagnosis, it’s harder than I thought,” she said. “I have to be on blood thinners so that basically reminds me twice a day that it happened and that I am still going through it. It’s just hard. Now that I am getting back to practice, I know the difference between that pain I felt when this thing was going on and now I can tell that it’s still there, but it’s way better. It is scary but I am getting through it.”
Kuttor has been back at practice, this time a willing 6 a.m. participant, and though she is unable to participate fully, she still has been able to help her teammates with her presence and occasionally being a stationary passer during a drill.
“The girls never fail me and make sure I am included, which means a lot to me,” she said. “When I got back into it and got to hold a basketball, I could not help but say, ‘That’s my baby.’ I felt so uncoordinated. My first run I did, I felt like a baby deer, but it felt amazing to do something. I didn’t want to sit down after that.”
As Kuttor reflected on these past few weeks, tears began to form as she described how fortunate she was.
“It was hard at times to wake up at five in the morning, but now I wish I could practice,” she said. “The doctors told me the stories of how bad it could have been. This is bad, but this was the best situation.”